Tuesday, May 22, 2012


After a 10 year wait the fourth volume of this fantastic biography of  Lyndon Johnson has been published and it was well worth waiting for.

This volume picks up with the run up to the 1960 Democratic Party campaign for the Presidential nomination.

It ended up being between Johnson and Kennedy.  Early in the campaign Lyndon Johnson only had to go out into the provinces and meet the people and he would have bolted in as the nominee and then gone straight into the White House, but he didn't and his hesitation doomed him to be Vice President under Kennedy.

The early part of the book is all about the Kennedys, especially Robert, who comes across to me as a nasty, nasty man - others could say that he was just protecting his brother whom he adored, but as I am not a Kennedy fan, I'll stick with nasty.

Johnson and Bobby Kennedy hated each other, a real hatred, not just dislike.  It all went back to Joe Kennedy who Bobby believes was slighted by Johnson.  Bobby Kennedy took the opportunity to slight and embarass Johnson at every turn when he had the opportunity, which was often,as the Vice Presidential job is evidentally one of the great non-jobs in the world.

What was fasinating is that Johnson just took it, he didn't like it but he took it, almost to the sycophant level but he just did his work such as it was.

All this changed on 22 November 1963 in Dallas and Johnson achieved his lifes ambition and basically swore himself in as President of the United States.

It is from here that we see Johnson as the consumate politician, in the space of several months he managed to get legislation passed that Kennedy would never have got through.  There were tax cuts and civil rights legislation that only Johnson could have got going.  His mastery of using power is totally evident here cajolling, stroking and threatening to get his will done.

There are times in the book when I was glad Johnson was not President early in the 1960's, I believe he would not have handled the Cuban crisis at all well and an escalation of violence may well have ensued.

There is 605 pages of brilliant biography here and there promises to be at least one more volume covering Johnson's own 1964 election as President and his retirement.

I wish Robert Caro good health,  he is now 76 years of age and he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

There are a good selection of photographs spread through this volume, the one absolute stunner is of Jackie Kennedy walking down the steps of the Capitol with her children after the eulogies for JFK, a remarkable photograph.  (2012)


This is the first of this author that I found and bought it on the blurb on the back of the book. 
It promised a tale of a New York Detective trying to live up to the myth of his dead father, another detective who with a band of colleagues had cleaned up organised crime in New York.

What I got was the cliche alcoholic cop who, although very good at his job, is trying to be better than his father, whom he believes had feet of clay.

The book abounds with cliche's-  Parrish's girlfriend is the hooker with the heart of gold, the NYPD is picking on  our Frank  and of course there is the long suffering partner. And rather a silly part of the book where he has to see the department shrink daily and he spills the entire investigation to her in serial form and she becomes this cheer leader type.

But apart from this its pretty good.  Needs some serious editing though, comes in at about 100 too many pages, all of which would be the shrinks role.

Ellory can set a mood and writes of drinking dens very well but I found with the books back story the serial killer being hunted takes a back seat.

But I will buy his books again worth the investment.


A Don Winslow book where the hero is not a drug dealer or a hit man, Jack Wade is an arson investigator and very good at the job.

He gets sent to investigate the apparent death by smoke of a wealthy woman whose body is found  in the burnt out wing of her mansion.

Wade is an investigator of the old school , he follows his instincts and in doing so unearths a web of corruption that  reaches right through his community.

We have corrupt cops and Russian gangsters, everyone is beautiful and California cool, a complete page turner. Its all excellent stuff. 

As well as a good murder mystery the book is a hand book on the investigation of an arson.  Winslow was an investigator in a prior  incarnation and he knows his stuff.

An excellent read (1999)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

THE OVERLOOK - Michael Connelly

This a 'Harry Bosch' novel, generally a guarantee that it will be value for money.

I picked it up and at first thought I'd got a large print edition as there seemed to be about 12 words to the page.  I read it and as I was doing so it seemed really lightweight because generally Connelly writes something that's not too throw away.  The further I got into it the more it felt like it was a short story that had been padded out.

So, when I finished it there was no surprise to see at the back of my edition that it was originally a story that had been serialized for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and had been "re-visited" (padded out no less ) by the author and put out as a book.

Tacky and very disappointing -  as for the story well, there's a murder and radioactive material is stolen and it turns out the the entire FBI has no idea, the entire Los Angeles Police Department has no idea -  Harry being the only one to figure it out.

Connelly does this every now and again , writes some utter tripe and then redeems himself ,but this is poor, really poor.  (2007)


Cacciato is a member of a U S Army platoon in Vietnam and he goes AWOL.

His platoon take off after him and once this starts the reader is taken on a mystical walk where the platoon walks to Paris to get him back. 

So, the book is divided into two parts, there is vignettes of real combat scene's that the platoon is involved in and then there is the ' magic' scenes where they walk through countries  and experience lots of things that are metaphors for whats happening in the world.

The writing is brilliant, but I still don't ' get  it' anymore this time than when I read it 30 years ago.

To me its very dated and is a real 'child of its time' written in the late 70's, when everyone was still clinging to the 60's.

As a war novel its a bust ,as a novel  to me it's the type of novel that would go down well with the literary set for book awards, for that type of reader  its probably gold, but its not for me and even if I'm still around in 30 years I won't pick it up again.  (1978)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Don Cubbin is the president of a near million member labour union and there is a challenger for the position at the next election. With the job comes riches and admittance to the real power in Washington.

It opens up the corruption that is endemic when at this level of politics.

This is a world Thomas knew well as a labour organisor and Campaign Organiser for political candidates seeking office.

Once again the master gives us intrigue, sex, greed and some of the best descriptions of men hungering for power you will ever find.  Most of them are vile humans, totally selfish.

Even for Thomas this is brilliant, as always there are great characters with sparkling dialogue  plus, the unfaithful wife, the hitman and the Washington power brokers pulling the strings.

As always  Thomas can't be recommended highly enough, but again for some reason this is out of print, astonishing with writing of this quality.